The cutting-edge research ofAFOSR (Air Force Research Laboratory) is developing future technologies to protect the lives of its military force. The main one is surprising.
Groundbreaking research into cell reprogramming is leading to a technology that could heal wounds over five times sooner than the human body does now, greatly improving long-term health for fighters and veterans.
The dr.Indika Rajapakse, an associate professor of computational medicine, mathematics, and bioinformatics at the University of Michigan, is researching ways to reprogram a person's cells and heal wounds faster.
The birth of a goal
In order to obtain a high-resolution view of the interior of living cells to better understand the healing process, Rajapakse proposed to US Defense Research the purchase of a live cell imaging microscope.
Doctor Frederick Leve, head of the Air Force dynamic systems program, heeded him. It all started with this choice.
The microscope also helps collect data for an algorithm that can mathematically identify when it is best to intervene in a cell's cycle to heal wounds.
"There are incredible opportunities to humanize science and meet the critical needs of medicine," says Rajapakse. “We have the resources to do this and it is our obligation to take full advantage of it. With the help of the Air Force, I was able to acquire the tools I needed to advance my research on cellular reprogramming to heal wounds. "
Not just military
Rajapakse is developing its technology while also thinking of other uses not immediately intended for aero-medical and military environments. Burn healing, skin grafts, organ transplants - the impact of this research effort can be far-reaching.
The convergence of bioscience and mathematical models can truly provide a game changer for improving technologies to heal wounds.
Dr. Rajapakse's research can lead to innovative solutions for civil use, or for future space environments.
What is the research on technology to heal wounds
Cellular reprogramming is the process of taking one type of human cell, such as a skin cell, and reprogramming its genome to make it a different type of cell (a muscle cell, a blood cell, a neuron, or any other guy).
This process is developed using proteins called transcription factors. Transcription factors "turn on and off" various genes within cells to regulate activities such as division, growth, migration and cell organization.
By applying the right transcription factors, Rajapakse found that they can heal wounds over five times faster than they do on their own.
A spray bandage to heal wounds
The next step is to figure out how to operationally translate this discovery.
The imagined technology would act like a spray bandage, to apply transcription factors directly to wounds. This method converts exposed deep muscle cells into superficial skin cells, which means a greater chance of healing than current skin grafting methods.
"It is rare for math to deliver such promising results so early," Leve said. “It usually takes decades for basic mathematical research to turn into models applicable to a technology. In the case of Dr. Rajapakse, it only took a few years. We are proud that our funding has enabled such rapid development ”.